An Indiana GOP committee removed April Johnson from her post as Madison Township committeeman Tuesday over her public support for a non-Republican candidate in last year’s Montgomery County commissioner race.
The committee ruled that Johnson violated GOP rules by signing and circulating petitions for independent Jacob Arthur to run against Republican John Frey in November’s general election and then posting Facebook messages backing Arthur’s unsuccessful bid. Frey formally complained to the party after the election.
Johnson disputed the ruling and is demanding to be reinstated, claiming in part that the committee waited too long under the party’s rules to conduct the hearing.
The complaint was originally filed with the party’s Fourth District committee in December, giving members 45 days to hear the case. Frey provided copies of the petitions and Facebook posts, which included a photo of an Arthur campaign sign in Johnson’s yard.
State GOP rules define a Republican in good standing as a party member “who supports Republican nominees and who does not actively or openly support another candidate against a Republican nominee.”
Frey later withdrew the motion to allow committee chair Randy Head to contact Johnson, who received a letter about the alleged violations.
Johnson claims Arthur is a Republican who had to file as an independent to enter the commissioner race, and she believes his platform was more aligned with Republicans’ views. Head gave Johnson an opportunity to resign before the process moved forward.
Frey resubmitted the complaint Feb. 3, which restarted the clock on calling a hearing. Johnson claims she hadn’t been notified or shown proof that the complaint was refiled.
Johnson addressed her concerns about the timetable before the committee, pointing to the section of party rules that lays out the timeline for setting hearings.
“According to this code, this is an illegal proceeding. Shall I proceed or shall we wrap it up with that?” Johnson said in her opening statement during the closed-door hearing, which she provided to the Journal Review.
Johnson told the committee that concerns about her signature on Arthur’s petitions should have been brought forward immediately. She denied endorsing or actively campaigning for Arthur and said that a Madison Township citizen’s Facebook post suggesting Johnson supported the third-party bid does not qualify as an endorsement.
Johnson also referenced an official complaint she said was once filed against a former Republican precinct committeeman and his wife for placing a Democratic candidate’s sign in his yard. Johnson claimed no punitive action was taken against the couple and they remain active in the local GOP.
She also claimed that Frey, after losing a primary race for county council, worked to recruit independent Mark Smith to run against the Republican candidate in the general election.
Frey, who was also given an opportunity to address the committee, did not return a text message seeking comment about the hearing. He earlier told the Journal Review that a Republican precinct chair cannot represent the party members in their township by supporting a non-Republican candidate in an election.
Frey lost the committeeman seat to Johnson last spring but narrowly survived Johnson’s primary bid on the same ballot.
District committees began handling local party complaints after a rule change in 2019 that sought to make hearings more impartial.
“I think it tries to remove personal relationships from the equation and we’re just trying to make an objective decision: was a state party rule violated, and in this case it was,” Head said.
Under GOP rules, Johnson can formally appeal the district’s ruling to the state committee.
County chair Dan Guard has 30 days to appoint a replacement for the rest of the term, which expires in 2025. Frey says he does not want reinstated to the seat.